Our PCS (Permanent Change of Station) to Hawaii • May – November 2017
After we received our orders to Hawaii (read about how we found out here), we were very overwhelmed by all the different details we had to work out. One thing that was helpful to me was reading other blogs written by military wives about their experience. This post will outline our experience, as a couple with one dog and no kids — the decisions we made, how things played out, and what we’d do differently in hindsight. This is geared more toward other military couples considering or preparing to move to Hawaii, but this could also aid to explain what we went through to get here to friends and family. And should we ever find ourselves considering another outside the continental US (OCONUS) move, we can look back at this post and reconsider. 🙂
At the beginning of all this, we were living in Upstate NY. Once we were told we were moving to Hawaii, the first roadblock we encountered was actually receiving our orders. The detailer called Curtis and told him they were giving him an order modification on May 18, and said the orders would come soon. They came on June 20 — 5 days before he was to report to 10 week training in CT. The hold up came first as a result of bad information given to us, and then administrative paperwork and miscommunication continued to stall the process. We had to have overseas screening even though we were just moving to Hawaii — this isn’t always necessary, but there were certain circumstances that warranted it in our situation.
One of the first things we learned was that Hawaii has very strict laws regarding bringing animals to the island, and we are very glad we got on that immediately. We took Charlotte to a vet to have her blood drawn and sent to the lab in Kansas, and so began her 120 days before she was allowed on the island.
Once we finally had orders in hand, we were finally able to schedule our move. We would have preferred to move ourselves (and were fully prepared to do so) as we have always done in the past, but they don’t reimburse for OCONUS moves. Being summertime, things were busier than normal and we weren’t able to schedule either our stuff going to Hawaii and stuff going into storage movers until mid-July. Since Curtis had training during that time, I had to handle that part on my own — read that post here.
A no-brainer for us was how we wanted to travel to Hawaii: instead of flying directly from CT to HI, we opted to drive cross country and fly from the West coast. There were many reasons surrounding this decision, some of the bigger ones were so that we could see family, so that our dog would have a shorter and direct flight, and because we got 10 paid travel days as opposed to 2. We submitted our requests for airline tickets and the military gave us the days and locations we wanted on the second try.
The one thing we regret doing: shipping our car. This was a pain from beginning to end. Perhaps it makes more sense for other families, but in our case, we aren’t especially attached to our car and it isn’t in perfect condition. It has dents and scratches and dog fur all over, but we don’t care — it gets us safely from point A to point B, from Connecticut to Washington. We had an appointment in Tacoma to drop off our car, and the appointment turned out to be 6 hours: we had emptied it out completely and cleaned it to our liking, but that wasn’t good enough for their standards. Basically, they don’t want to be held liable for anything, and apparently the vehicle would be inspected once in Hawaii. They took pictures of every side and marked where each and every scratch was — and there were plenty, as we do lots of off roading. We also had to repair the entire windshield because there was a tiny speck (not even a crack) “obstructing” the driver’s view.
Our car arrived on the island just over 2 weeks after we dropped it off, but the office there was understaffed and had limited hours and appointments, so we had to wait another 2 weeks to be able to pick it up. Our orders didn’t include reimbursement for a rental car, so the expenses added up. I had to go on my own to pick up the car, and thankfully it was much easier than dropping off had been. I was glad I had thought to bring along our power of attorney along with all the other documents, since the drop-off paperwork had been in Curtis’ name.
Unfortunately, our car struggles didn’t end here: once on island, you have a 30 day grace period to either get your car registered or get an out of state permit. We decided to register in Hawaii since we were going to be owning a home, but either way we would have gone through the same struggles. Step 1: Hawaii requires no-fault insurance. We switched ours over right away to HI state insurance, and had our insurance card on our phones since we couldn’t have the physical copy mailed to us yet (more on that in a bit). Step 2: Go for a safety check. The info sheet given to me made this sound easy, claiming most gas stations performed these. None of the gas stations I went to did. I then tried auto repair chains, but they wouldn’t accept our insurance card because it was on my phone. Finally, I was able to get in to the car shop on the Pearl Harbor base. And the car failed the inspection. It turns out they are very thorough, and gave me a list of things to fix. Most were easy and Curtis was able to do them himself, but there was one big item he couldn’t do. We knew what was wrong with it, but it still worked fine (it made it across the country!) so we didn’t want to deal with the expensive fix when we were in the process of buying a home. In the end, we had to suck it up and have it fixed. We returned for a recheck, and failed again — but it was because of the system this time. You always “fail” your first inspection because your car isn’t registered in Hawaii. You then bring in the fail slip along with other documentation to the vehicle registration office, get registered, then have another safety inspection done, and finally pass. This entire process took me a whole month because of the hurdles I had to jump through, as well as coordinating when I could have the car when Curtis needed to be several different places every day. Long story short, I wish we would have sold the car on the mainland and bought something on island. If you love your car and it’s in great condition, this process would be much easier — in our situation, it just didn’t seem worth the hassle.
I already shared the chronicles of our entire cross country road trip and flights to Hawaii, which you can read here. Once we arrived in Hawaii, we “moved into” the Navy Lodge on Ford Island, where we lived for over 2 months while house hunting and waiting in the escrow process. I’ll write another post outlining our home buying process and why we decided to buy, but besides having to stay in the lodge for 2 long months, we can’t really complain about our time there. The room was spacious and in good condition, we had a small kitchenette where we made all our meals, the staff was friendly, and there was a large dog park across the street which we visited daily. The wifi wasn’t great, but that’s just a first world problem, right?
Overall, the move went as well as we could have hoped and we are thankful that we will have 2.5-3 years to enjoy the island before our next move!